Santa Claus, the Pub Crawl

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Blimey. Not sure I should have had that third helping of sherry trifle – I’m seeing multiple Santas now! This jolly festive overspill was snapped at the famous World’s End pub in Camden, North London in 2009.

This was one of the first images I found while hunting for Christmassy blog post stuff on Wikimedia Commons this year, and I couldn’t resist sharing it. Because, in the end, how many Santas are too many Santas!?

I think there’s no such thing, so many more Santas (both old and new) will be winging their way to you in the run-up to Christmas day – welcome to Santa Week on Another Kind Of Mind!

For lots more Christmas reading (and viewing) from me, click here

 

Meet Cheeky Squirrel…

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A few months back, I wrote a post about my local wildlife, which many of you seemed to enjoy. You’ll be pleased to hear, then, that the foxes are still being daft, the parakeets are still being noisy, the Pidge family are still quietly getting on with it (whatever ‘it’ is in the world of wood pigeons), the magpies are still bouncing round like they own the place, and Cheeky Squirrel is still as cheeky as ever.

Actually, Cheeky Squirrel is now letting me take photos of him, and you can see an example above. This is something of a development – I’ve tried snapping him before, but he’s always run away before I could even get my camera focused! This time, he sat quite still, watching with interest as I photographed the autumn leaves on the trees and then posed for a portrait or two.

As you can see, he’s all fluffed up against the cold, and quite rightly too – the temperature is rapidly dropping further as winter approaches here. The trees are almost bare now and food will soon become scarce unless he’s cached some nuts somewhere (he probably has). I’m sure you will join me in wishing Cheeky Squirrel the best of luck in getting through to the spring…

Kitchen Birdwatcher: Everybody Needs Good Neighbours…

How many of you can bird watch while you’re doing the washing up? I can, and it’s fascinating! It was while scrubbing away at a particularly recalcitrant baking tray one afternoon that I looked up and saw a magpie with a beakful of twigs flying into the tree on the embankment across the railway tracks.

Then a second twig-laden magpie came in, and I realised they were building a nest – so I kept watching them. And I’ve been watching them ever since. In this post, I’d like to introduce you to some more of my local wildlife (and update you on the Toon Magpies, of course!). It’s time to meet the neighbours…

All photos from the wonder that is Wikimedia Commons. Click through on any pic for more info and licensing details.

The Pidge Family

A wood pigeon at City of London Cemetery and Crematorium
A wood pigeon at City of London Cemetery and Crematorium

The Pidge Family are Wood Pigeons. Pidge himself has become a regular visitor to my kitchen tree over the last year or so, especially on rainy days when he will come and snuggle up in the crook of a branch with his feathers all fluffed up in an attempt to keep dry.

Continue reading “Kitchen Birdwatcher: Everybody Needs Good Neighbours…”

Kitchen Birdwatcher: Spring with the Toon Magpies

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Exciting news from the Toon Magpies – they’re building a new nest! It’s in the same tree they used last year, as you can see from the photo above (the 2018 nest is top right, this year’s is top left), which means I’ve had a grandstand seat in my kitchen for the building process again.

The new nest is looking a bit scruffy, but it’s large and I am sure it will be perfectly cosy for the forthcoming eggs. The recent unseasonably warm weather in the UK has increased the building activity to the extent that I now actually think that TWO nests are being built in adjacent trees, by two different pairs of magpies!

Spring is very nearly here…

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Kitchen Birdwatcher: Blue Tits and Toon Magpies

Autumn colour 2018

Yes! The magpies made it through! I am delighted to report that all went well for the brave little magpie pair whose progress I was following from my kitchen window back in the spring, and there is now a large gang of youngsters squawking noisily round the neighbourhood

They are now officially known as the Toon Magpies thanks to my friend Jim, who is a Newcastle United fan (for non football readers, United play in black and white striped shirts, are nicknamed the Magpies, and their fans are known as the Toon Army).

As a result, Jim has decided to name the young magpies after his favourite players and managers from the club. This means we have Sir Bobby [Robson], Rafa [Benitez], Shola [Ameobi], [Alan] Shearer, Speedo [Gary Speed] and more…

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Kitchen Birdwatcher: The Magpies’ Nest

The Kitchen Birdwatcher’s essential kit

I live in west London, right under the Heathrow flightpath, and my flat backs on to a fairly busy railway line that sometimes sees traffic at all hours of the day and night. Noisy, yes, but still a great place to live because (and this may surprise some people) of all the wildlife in the area. There is a perhaps surprising amount of green space nearby, creating perfect habitats for numerous creatures – you’ll find a small park and various allotments (some in use, some derelict) within a block or so of my flat, and the railway line itself is flanked by trees and other greenery.

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Meet the Mini Snowman!

I ventured out into the snowy wilds of west London this afternoon. It was icy cold and the biting wind made it feel even colder, but as I left my building I was amused to spot this adorable little fella guarding the front door. I suspect he was built by my lovely next-door-neighbours, who have an energetic toddler – he’s just the perfect size for a little one to have made!

Keep warm and safe out there, dear readers. And if you build a snowman, send me a snap! In weather like this, it’s important to keep an eye on your friends, neighbours and family too, especially anyone who is elderly, vulnerable, or in poor health. Sometimes even something as simple as an extra pair of fluffy socks or a hot flask of tea can make all the difference…

Christmas in London: Snow Joke!

Dealing with inclement weather at this time of the year is nothing new. We’ve had some snow in London already this December, but it’s unlikely to be a white Christmas here this year. The early 19th century was a chilly time, though, as illustrated by this witty 1821 etching by Richard Dighton from the Wellcome Library collection. This unfortunate chap has just had his fashionable top hat knocked into his eyes by falling snow being shovelled above – just as he passes a shop selling ice skates (I love the shop’s name: ‘Careless Skate Maker’. Not sure I’d want to be shopping there if I was wanting to get out on the ice!). This was obviously a common annoyance in a wintery 19th century London, and it didn’t matter if you were an elegantly dressed gentleman like this one – the snow would still get you!

It’s almost Christmas Eve. Wherever you are, and whether you have snow or not, keep safe and warm out there…

For links to more festive reading, click here!

Christmas in London: Lighting the Darkness on Oxford Street

It’s the day before Christmas Eve and I hope you’ve done all your shopping. Since it’s a Saturday too, high streets and shopping centres up and down the country will be buzzing with last-minute shoppers all day. Personally, that’s one of my more anxiety-inducing ideas of hell, and makes me glad I’ve done all my Christmas shopping, and all I have to do now is to stay in the warm and wrap the presents up (which, in its way, is a circle of hell in its own right – can someone PLEASE find the end of the Sellotape for me!?). I’m looking forward to Christmas Day when I can put my feet up and not have to think about anything!

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Christmas in London: A 17th Century Update

Way back in 2010, I wrote a Christmas post examining how the festive season was celebrated in the 17th century. This was a period of great upheaval in British culture and society, especially in the aftermath of the Civil Wars and the execution of King Charles I. A Puritan government under Oliver Cromwell had taken over from the monarchy and implemented a new set of policies that weren’t always popular with the ordinary people.

Most notoriously, they banned the celebration of Christmas – as I wrote in the previous post, this really annoyed the people of London (and elsewhere), who simply carried on as usual when it came to enjoying the festivities, and even rioted when they could not! In return, London’s refusal to abide by the law thoroughly irritated the government, as this intriguing report from around 1650 (attributed to Cromwell himself) shows.

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